masahiro tanakaThe latest from Tanaka-ville as things return to normal in the post-holidays world …

  • Mariners, Mariners, Mariners! Er, um, Yankees, Yankees, Yankees! The Mariners enjoyed a brief time in the spotlight as frontrunners for Masahiro Tanaka, but cold water yesterday from Ken Rosenthal (in the form of a “front office wants him, but still has to convince ownership” kind of thing) brings them back to the pack. And now it’s Yankees, Yankees, Yankees once again, largely courtesy of a Ken Davidoff report noting that, “There’s no sense out of Yankees camp the team is going to draw any sort of financial line with this guy. They’re in desperation mode after missing the playoffs, and they badly need another frontline starting pitcher while a) not loving any of Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana; and b) not having the trade chips to get someone from another team.” We don’t know what is in Tanaka’s heart and mind, but if the Yankees – and not the Cubs, as has been reported – are determined to be the top bidder for Tanaka, no matter what, I have a hard time seeing them missing out on their man. Davidoff goes as far to say that the Yankees are far more interested in getting Tanaka than they were in retaining Robinson Cano. And heaven knows they need pitching.
  • The Yankees haven’t had serious contact about Tanaka with his agent, Casey Close, just yet, according to Wallace Matthews. But that’s coming soon, and it sounds like that was mostly because Close was on a family vacation. That’s as good a reason as any for why things have been so quiet on the Tanaka front the last week and a half. With a January 24th signing deadline, there was no need to rush just yet anyway.
  • So if it’s all Yankees or all Mariners, should we even follow this story anymore? Well, of course. Setting aside the fact that the Tanaka market will have a direct impact on the rest of free agency and the pitching trade market (of obvious relevance to the Cubs), the Cubs really are interested. Maybe they can’t land Tanaka, and they certainly aren’t inside favorites. But Tanaka’s value to the Cubs’ organization going forward is pretty clear, and it’s not like they’ve already spent up whatever little dollars they have available this offseason. Longshot? Maybe. But, until we hear otherwise, the Cubs are in this thing. There will probably be five more “lead changes” over the course of this process before Tanaka actually signs. You have to just take these reports for what they’re worth.
  • Mike Axisa at River Avenue Blues breaks down everything – everything – about Tanaka. One small piece of note: “By my unofficial count, 37 players have come over from Japan as free agents and there was no discernible location bias: 14 signed with East Coast teams (including NPB stars like Hideki Matsui and Kaz Matsui), 12 signed with West Coast teams (Kenji Johjima and Hideo Nomo), and the other 11 signed with Middle America teams (Tadahito Iguchi and Kosuke Fukudome).” Still feels like money will be the most important thing, with “fit” as a close number two if the money is all in the same ballpark.
  • If the Cubs signed him, Tanaka would instantly become the organization’s top “prospect,” according to Baseball America.
  • Sahadev shared this Jeff Passan pitch count piece on Tanaka in his long take on whether Tanaka is actually worth signing to a huge contract for the Cubs, but, in case you missed it because of the context … here’s a great Jeff Passan pitch count piece on Tanaka. Yes, some teams are concerned about the heavy workload Tanaka’s been raised on.
  • TWC

    “That’s as good a reason as any for why things have been so quiet on the Tanaka front the last week and a half. ”

    Oh, you mean it’s *not* because the Cubs’ FO was furiously backpedalling from their previous comments?! This is just SO dizzying….

    • MichiganGoat

      Well that and the fact that NOBODY including Tanaka would play for the Cubs regardless of the when the great history of the Yankees is all a players wants.

  • BenW

    If the Yankees starting offering him 21, 22, or 23+ per year, you just tip your cap, and move on. They are desperate for pitching, and he’s probably the best one available.

  • CubFan Paul

    If the Yankees wanted Tanaka they wouldn’t of sacrificed last year (Lyle Overbay!!).

    I’ll call their bluff, because they’ve been planning to get under the $189M just as long as they’ve known Tanaka would be available.

    • Rebuilding

      Agreed. I think a lot of these Yankee articles are just people saying that in the old days there would be no doubt he would be a Yankee. Any dollar they spend above $189 million is taxed at 42% this year and going forward. So a $120 million contract is essentially a $165 million contract. Not saying they aren’t in it, but they have some hurdles. It would be ironic if they are able to get Tanaka because we sent them a big bat and ate most of the salary (possibly keeping them from signing Choo or Cruz)

      • Rebuilding

        My dark horse is now the Phillies. Old core, crazy GM trying to go for it

  • hansman

    “If the Cubs signed him, Tanaka would instantly become the organization’s top “prospect,” according to Baseball America. ”

    So, if the Cubs signed him would that give them the #1 farm system? Shouldn’t that alone be motivation enough for Theo to spend upwards of $30M a year?

    • MichiganGoat

      Yes! And then keep him in the minors for three years while we continue to tank the MLB team. 😉 THE PLAN!

  • shlenny

    The Yankees will have a difficult time making the playoffs with or with Tanaka next year, unless you think he will be a serious Cy Young candidate AND ALL their other starters overachieve. They have major structural issues that this year’s free agent SP market cannot solve and they will not be in the hunt for significant SP trades. Fogetabot’em. til 2015 at least (will also need to replace, Jeter, ARod, CC, Tex, and Beltran by 2016). For this reason, Tanaka’s agent should be looking in other directions. Everyone says, LA, without thinking about it much. Both teams make some sense, but if I am the agent, I am looking at $20M+ and 8+ years. In which case, I would kick the tires on BOS, ATL, SF, and, yes, the Cubs.

    • BenW

      No way ATL or SF are in on him. Neither has the payroll space to squeeze a 20+ million player on their roster. I could see Boston being a quiet darkhorse, stealing him from the Yankees. I still think the Cubs are in 3rd, behind SEA and NYY.

  • Cubsin

    I’m convinced Tanaka will be looking for a six-year contract, no more and no less. After six years, he’ll be a 31-year-old free agent. Top pitchers may be earning 30, 35 or $40 million per year by then. Why would he want to postpone his second free agency?

  • Blackhawks1963

    All signs point to Tanaka signing with the Yankees. If not the Yankees, then I suppose the Dodgers and Angels each have a nominal chance of getting him.

    Tanaka to the Yankees? I know put it at over 90% certain. The luxury tax won’t be an inhibitor either. The Yankees are desperate for a frontline starting pitcher and won’t be outbid on Tanaka. Makes lots of sense for him to go there otherwise. Yankees will once again be solidly competitive and Kuruda and Ichiro are in place to enable his transition. Plus Mrs. Tanaka can work on her burgeoning media career in the Big Apple.

    Cubs are out of this. No shot. None, nada, zilch. Happened the second the new posting rule took effect.

    • MichiganGoat

      Oh my this really is your “thing” and you will never stop will you? Just pick one thing to say and then say it over and over and over.

    • Jim

      I like to read these posts in Larry David’s Steinbrenner voice, just adds to the hilariousness.

  • CubFanBob

    The new posting rule actually helps the Cubs imho.

    • Rebuilding

      I agree. If it was an unlimited posting fee (which is not covered by the luxury tax) then the Yankees would prob be 99% favorites

      • CubFanBob

        Yep because the Yankees could out bid everyone without the luxury hit plus the Cubs have positioned themselves in an advantageous position financially over most of the other serious bidders with this new posting system. I wouldnt be surprised if the Cubs havent already reached out either directly or indirectly to Tanaka prior to Jan 1st.

        The more Tanaka white noise you hear out of the NY Yankee blogosphere the more it seems to me the Yankee’s wont sign him. I cant wait to feast off the Yankee fandom tears with another team signs Tanaka and even more so take delight when they end up in last place in the American League East next season.

        • MichiganGoat

          Good points, it does negatively impact the Yankees but since it is now basically free agency the competition and price might be higher than the blind bid system had.

  • TK

    The comment about lack of location preference is flawed logic as it assumes every player is the same “person.” You could make the argument that most of the east coast guys were possibly enamored with the nyc thing, even if they didn’t even end up IN ny (i.e. Boston is pretty close to ny). You could also argue that the west coast guys DID want to be closer to Japan, and therefore “preferred” LA/Seattle/etc… It MAY demonstrate a lack of location preference, or it may indicate that there certainly is very much of a preference but that each man is his own man, with his own ideals. Bottom line is WE DONT KNOW. I’ll also throw out there again the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, none of the previous NPB transplants were married to a JPop star and, therefore, likely did not have as much to consider in that regard. If she isn’t willing to take a major hit to her career (or be physically separated), chances are high that THEY will “prefer” the west coast.

    Hopefully they like Al Capone, ivy and MJ . . . A LOT!!!!!!

    • Rebuilding

      All of this is true. And I think that’s really the point – no one knows. The data just demonstrates that, in general, there is no location bias when it comes to Japanese players

    • hansman

      It’s sound logic in that no team should consider themselves, at the outset, at a disadvantage for any player coming from Japan.

      Tanaka will have a preference independent from other Japanese players (we are all individuals after-all) but there is no Japanese-player-wide preference.

  • TK

    Its important to note that all these reports by Rosenthal, and others, are SPECULATIVE. They are not quotes form team officials, nor in any other way deemed factual. Most likely very few people besides Masahiro Tanaka, his family, and his agent have any clue of which team is the front -runner for his services.

  • itzscott

    In spite of the misguided feelings of some on this board, the days of the Yankees being able to buy a pennant are over even if they wanted to because the number of available impact players isn’t there to make that a viable option.

    The Yankees need to rebuild just as badly as the Cubs did.

    The only purpose a Tanaka signing serves them is strictly for P.R. and to keep their fans interested.

  • http://BN Sacko

    I was really surprised when Pujols went to the Angels so Tanaka could be a surprise fit somewhere also. I guess that could include the Cubs then coundn’t it?

  • woody

    Tanaka’s agent sure knows when to take a vacation. Let’s get this thing done and move on. I don’t know what plan B is, but I’m sure Theo has one. My guess is another top five draft pick in 2015. I hope Renteria has some Holy water to sprinkle on these guys or something. The lineup looks like redux 2013. David can beat Goliath from time to time, but over the course of 162 games things usually level out. This team will be over performing to end the season at .500. Crap! What’s another year in my life anyway.

  • Scotti

    “…here’s a great Jeff Passan pitch count piece on Tanaka.”

    Actually, no. He failed to mention that Tanaka has pitched once per week whereas American professional starters pitch once per five days. Ask any fitness pro what two extra recovery days will do for you. (In fact, the reason Clemens–and other pitchers–took steroids is that they allow you to recover quicker.)

    The seven day/five day schedules explain WHY Dice-K had the clean MRI after throwing MANY more pitches in Japan and, two years later, his MRI was messed up after pitching every five days here. Passan mentioned the MRIs and the fact that this is all new and such… He just never mentioned what IS known in fitness–cut recovery too short and you risk injury. (Extend recovery too long and you experience zero gains).

    For this basic reason, paying for six starters (and pitching them every six day) is more cost effective than pitching five starters (and paying for six or seven).

    • Brett

      He mentioned it. It’s a very important piece of the equation, and I do wish he’d given it more attention.

      • Scotti

        On a re-read I did catch the sentence. Personally, I’d be fine if no one talked about it until the Cubs started six quality starters (letting the league catch up). I’m not sure if Theo gets it though. Who knows, maybe this is one of Theo’s secrets that he’ll spring on us… It r e a l l y is b a s i c fitness/recovery. With all of the PED pitchers that were out there (for recovery purposes) you would think teams would catch on and realize its better to pay for six guys to pitch on the field than five to pitch and several to recover from surgery.

        • Fishin Phil

          This all makes way too much sense to me. It can’t possibly be right. 😉

          • MichiganGoat

            It doesn’t happen because of egos and history. The best pitchers don’t want their starts and innings diminished. They want a shot at 300 wins, 200 innings a year, and on and on. As long as pitchers want match what previous greats have done it will be difficult to sign pitchers to be part of a 6 man rotation. Now if we can develop young pitchers under control and sign a couple of pitchers that are not top free agent pitchers. I do agree that it make too much sense but hubris is a tough flaw to overcome.

        • JB88

          Assuming for a second that you are 100% correct and moving to a seven-day per start rotation is the right way to go and is a market inefficiency, what is the explanation for the pre-1970 rotations where there were four man rotations and what seems like a bevy of great pitching over the first 80 years of MLB?

  • NorthSideIrish

    Luke Stuckmeyer ‏@LukeStuckmeyer 4m
    Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will meet with the #Cubs & #WhiteSox this week…likely in Chicago.

    Even though he is already scheduled to pitch Opening Day for the Yankees, he’s at least coming in for a visit. Hopefully the temps will be back in the positive numbers by then…

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